If you hire Bernard Gray, the mercurial CEO of the TES to have a look at your cost efficiencies, don't be surprised that the result is a damning report that shows profligate waste.
Bernard Gray was once an advisor to George Robertson at the MOD (which is why the mod gave him theig) and then went to be head honcho of CMPi via a spell as strategy director for Clive Hollick. If he has a reputation for anything its a brutal approach to cost management. The MOD/Government have now read the report and buried it according to press articles.
If Gordon Brown had asked anyone at TES or UBM what kind of report Gray might write he would have certainly rethought the appointment if what he really wanted was a nice warm cuddly feeling.
You could argue that UBM has done a lot of things right. It has invested judiciouslyin some online,it has reduced its dependence on print and has a substantial events business. Even so, Operating profit from print magazines dropped 77.9 per cent in the first of half to £3.3m, profit from events dropped 12.7 per cent to £37.8m and profit from data, services and online dropped 43.6 per cent to £16m.
According to Press Gazette, CEO David Levin thinks the world is over published and has already culled fifteen titles this year. More to come no doubt.
Oddly Levin claims that forward bookings for shows are up 5.9% but there is certainly a timing issue here. IN downturns, show sales teams get better on onsite contracting, but late sales all but dry up. It is not necessarily the case that good forward bookings now will lead to improved final bookings at show time.
This year has seen a drop in attendee revenues of 39% for UBM. I am hearing from many people that selling tables at awards evenings (another version of attendee pay events) is like selling hog roast at a Bahmitzvah. The recssion is long from over.
There is a growing realisation amongst b2b houses that sitting tight and waiting for the upturn won't cut it. What is not yet clear is whether they have yet calulated the vision for the business after the apocalypse.
Meanwhile following the collapse of the RBI sale, Reed Elsevier is raising cash through a placement. This will reduce debt but also be dilutive for shareholders. Mor importantly, with much of the Reed Elsevier business market leading and high priced, and the remainder in the same mess as the rest of them (RBI) it is not yet clear what Reed can do to provide the next generation growth. Reeds share price went backwards on news of the placing and has not really gone anywhere in some years. Its a blue chip stock. Reed Elsevier has less to worry about than many (it has manageable debt, lots of profit and stable revenues from information) but its challenge is that it won't grow fast when or if the recovery comes. So for different reasons, Reed has the same challenges as every other business media company.